Saturday, 26th December, 2020

[Day 285]

Well, if there was such a thing as a typical Boxing Day then today was it. Meg and I were a little slow to get going this morning, having stayed up a little later than normal to watch a film about Maria Callas, the great 1960’s opera diva. Today was a bit colder and more blustery than yesterday but we were a little dismayed when we got to our normal newspaper shop to find it shut. So we trotted around the corner to pick up our Saturday newspapers from Waitrose only to find that closed as well. That was quite irritating because today would have been the first full day after the EU-UK trade agreement had been completed on Christmas Eve and we were anxious to see what the informed journalists had made of the deal. So we drank our coffee as usual in the park and resolved to go out and collect the newspapers by car. First, I made a trip to our local BP garage and managed to pick up a copy of the Guardian but not the Times. However, this was remedied by another car trip so I could walk down our local High Street where I found a newsagent that had copies of the Times. As it happens, I was particularly pleased to have secured copies of the newspapers today. The Times weekend magazine had devoted itself entirely to a review of the year in political cartoons by their award-winning cartoonist, Peter Brookes. He has the facility to link together what has been happening on the political scene with other elements of popular culture. I will give you four examples of what I mean. The cover of the Times magazine has Boris Johnson masquerading as Vicky Pollard (the Little Britain character, played by Matt Lucas who as an irresponsible teenager will never accept the blame for any of her transgressions) The cartoon shows Boris Jonson in the guise of Vicky Pollard at the Downing Street press briefing. Where the podium is normally adorned with NHS slogans, now we have Vicky Pollard excuses such as ‘Yeah But’, ‘No But’ and ‘Yeah But’. In another cartoon, you have a make-believe film poster for the Good (portrayed by Richi Sunak), the Bad (played by Boris Johnson) and the Ugly (portrayed by Dominic Cummings). The American election is also brilliantly covered by showing Joe Biden at his desk in the Oval Office of the White House saying ‘Phew! I thought he’d never go! ‘ If you look carefully at the cartoon though, you can see a bulge in the curtains and the tip of a long red tie (belonging to Donald Trump) behind the desk. But my fourth example is one of a cartoon which I think is sheer brilliance and displays several jokes at once. The cartoon is as an advertisement for ‘Matt Hancock’s Half-Hour' in which the features of Matt Hancock have been cleverly morphed into those of Tony Hancock, the comedian who made ‘Hancock’s Half Hour‘ famous. Hancock is receiving an injection by a nurse who is saying ‘Just a little prick‘. In the body of the poster, there is a further text explaining ‘From the Blood Donor to the Guinea Pig‘ (Of course, the ‘blood donor’ is Tony Hancock’s most well-known and practically iconic sketch) Finally, across the right-hand corner of the cartoon is a little banner explaining ‘Live on TV’ (as Matt Hancock says he will be shown having the vaccine live on TV) This cartoon, as I have described it, combines at least five jokes into one – sheer brilliance!

In the afternoon, I engaged in that perennial exercise of removing sticky labels from my supply of damson gin bottles. The first fourteen have already been given away so I now need to prepare a second batch. Some labels float off very easily after the usual soaking but sometimes the wine manufacturers of those little 25 cl bottle that I particularly like to deploy reserve their toughest industrial glue for the front label. I find that this takes a combination of fingernails, a stainless steel scrubber, a brillo pad, and for stubborn case a little brass wire tool I have and a bottle of boiling water which, if dribbled on, softens the glue somewhat before being attacked by other implements. I hope to have everything in place to do this tomorrow.

The newspapers have had a preliminary chance to look at the EE-UK trade agreement but the full text is 1,246 pages and has only been published today – in time to be debated in Parliament on Wednesday, where Boris Johnson wants to have the whole thing debated and passed into law in one day. Needless to say, this is not enough time for proper scrutiny but of course, this was the idea all along and rather makes a mockery of the ‘supremacy’ of parliament. Already the fishing industry is crying out that Johnson has sold them out and of course services, including the important financial services which are a dominant part of our economy, are not included in the trade agreement in any case.